There is this girl I know. Your average mid-twenties-Jane from India. She finished her education here, wanted to go to the US to do her masters. Her father, reasonably well off, took a ten odd lakhs loan here in India, and did his bit in order to allow his daughter to chase her American dream, while quietly pegging away at the loan here and putting two more kids through college and the US ( in all likelihood). Recently, the daughter got a job in the US – and one of the first things that she did was to take a whopping bank loan to purchase a brand new BMW. Daddy’s loan – well, was Daddy’s problem.
There is another person I know of, in her thirties, who has gone to the US also to chase another dream of getting a doctorate. This girl also needs the additional help from her family – who have a number of other financial obligations (home loans, ailing parents and children) so they need to juggle,occasionally scrimp and scrounge, so that this girl can complete her Phd.
A third girl eloped and got married to a person who – well didn’t really have a very stable job. Promptly had a baby. And passed the burden of cost of managing her house and the baby onto her sister – who worked crazy hours, stinted on stuff she wanted to do, took loans, in order to give the child a decent enough life.
There are two ways of looking at this (especially the first two instances) – the fact that someone has a DREAM (in capital letters) and will go all out to achieve it – whether it’s the doctorate of the Beamer or the marriage. Single minded focus – the hallmark of greatness they say. That inspite of odds, someone goes ahead and does whatever they have to.
Or we could say its complete self absorption. The fact that you are ruthlessly willing to mortgage someone else’s future in order to well, chase your dream.
All of us are probably born in the former stage - self absorbed – any infant or child, or for that matter a teen is so utterly wrapped in his or her own life, that the interests, ambitions, objectives of someone around one, are irrelevant.
But I think for most, there is a point of inflexion in the life when suddenly one start setting limits to what one can dream depending on the reality one lives in. A time where one realizes that one needs to compromise and barter with oneself, perhaps for the happiness of someone else. A difficult time, a time of renouncing hopes and desires. What can be more painful than realizing that one has to give up on a dream, sometimes even giving up dreaming altogether? It’s imposing a mental shackle on oneself, giving up the freedom to do whatever one wants to do, and enforcing this voluntarily.
But it can also be an uplifting time. A time of emotionally attaining adulthood- that is quite independent of physiological age. And also wisdom– the wisdom to know when it is okay to chase the elusive and fleeting dream, and when you need to stand up bravely to face often daunting, reality.
Some however, don’t seem to ever reach this stage. Like the spoilt child, they think that life ‘owes them’, and like the spoilt child, if life doesn’t give it to them easily, they will grab it from the adjacent child in the playground
One could argue that the people who are taken advantage of should draw the line – the other child fight back so as to say, say this much and no more. But sometimes that is not a feasible alternative – I cannot imagine an Indian father telling his much loved daughter that he will leave her to fight away the loan sharks. Or contemplate a girl living with the guilt of not providing for a baby nephew (who ideally shouldn’t have been her responsibility in the first place).
I so admire these people who are uncomplainingly and smilingly taking on the burdens and responsibilities. I also admire the other affluent people I know who could have very easily got their family to fund their ambitions – but instead, they chose to work nights and work hard to put themselves through post graduation, housing loans and life in general.
I believe that is one of the features of being an Indian – the fact that lots of things are done as a labour of love and when does it become just labour?
I suppose dreams are essential, but perhaps self respect and the dignity of responsibility is more so.